“Forever Young,” an art piece created for the Southwest Airlines Art and Social Engagement Project, is currently displayed in a collaborative visual arts exhibition titled Neighbors. This playful yet bold and thoughtful painting, created by children of the ForeverFamily Program and renowned acrylic painter and tattoo artist PaperFrank, has a unique ingenuity about it.
ForeverFamily is an organization that provides services to children with incarcerated parents and their families ensuring that they too are surrounded by the love of family. PaperFrank (aka Frank Dunson) says it’s the attention that this community organization gives to marginalized kids that moved him to be part of the initiative. “ForeverFamily knows the importance of the youth,” he says. “That’s something I really believe in. And the kids there reminded me of myself: misunderstood and f—ing categorized.” A collaboration among Southwest Airlines, the Ethics and the Arts Program, and Emory University has sponsored creative expression in Atlanta that addresses important social issues in the community, and it was this project* that brought the fitting pair together.
With striking colors and iconic characters, PaperFrank brings real and provocative messages to life. His poor vision allows him to see the world in large, simplistic shapes and colors. He mastered this distinct quality growing up in Atlanta and Asheville, North Carolina into art of incredible fashion. This time, he would have to hand the creative power to enthused and imaginative kids.
“At first, the process was me chasing the kids around and getting to learn them so that I could figure out a way to approach the piece of art with them,” he says. “Then, I realized that it’s art and it shouldn’t be so restricting. So, I let them be themselves–don’t scold them or make them feel wrong when they aren’t. So I kept a color scheme so that they could be uniform in one piece but express volumes of emotion.”
The painting is part of a larger mural and will join artwork by neighborhood artists Wycliffe “Linc” Bennett, Alfred Conteh, Heather Johnson, Carlton Mackey and others. This twelve-piece exhibit being held at the West End Performing Arts Center was curated by Princess Jones, Eyedrum Art & Music Gallery intern. The show features three-dimensional wall sculptures, photographs, paintings, and a collage from members of West End and the surrounding communities.
“It really showcases the talent in the West End area,” says Jones, a Georgia State University Senior and Studio Art Major, of the exhibit. “I like the work from each artist and the overall look of the show. It is very diverse, but not so diverse that it doesn’t fit together.” Eyedrum Art & Music Gallery and Essential Theatre is celebrating artists and creativity that flourishes in this neighborhood. The show was mounted at the request of Essential Theatre, whose festival of new plays has been on the boards at the West End Performing Arts Center from July 18 to August 2, 2014. “This is really a 3-way collaboration among Eyedrum, Essential, and West End,” says Eyedrum Executive Director Priscilla Smith. “We’re really happy for these new partners and proud of how it’s all working out.”
A reception for the artist will be held tomorrow, July 24, from 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. and the exhibit will continue to run through July 30. Gallery hours are from 9 a.m.-7:30 p.m. M-F, with additional Saturday hours during the theater festival from 7-8 p.m.